Abdoulaye Doucoure believes he is playing the finest football of his career under Everton manager Sean Dyche.
Since Dyche’s arrival on Merseyside in February, the Blues midfielder has scored seven goals - more than any other player for the Toffees.
Starting every game for Everton so far this season, Doucoure proved his importance once again during Saturday evening's away fixture at Brentford.
His first-time strike from James Tarkowski's headed assist fired the Toffees into an early lead at the Gtech Community Stadium, and Doucoure, speaking to evertontv after the game, outlined the confidence he's felt since working with the Blues boss.
"The manager [has been] very good to me and given me so much belief," said Doucoure. "The staff all believe in me, and I think tonight was the perfect game for us, and the perfect plan.
"I’m very happy with this manager and I think I’ve played my best football in my career with him, so I’m very grateful to him for letting me play and giving me freedom on the pitch, and I need to give something back."
Last season, Doucoure averaged a goal for every four shots he attempted, and against Brentford, the 30-year-old showcased his offensive capabilities to strike past Bees goalkeeper Mark Flekken in the early stages of the contest.
The goal means Doucoure, who also netted in Everton's previous away outing, has now scored six times in his past eight Premier League away games.
"I was looking at this yesterday," revealed Doucoure, discussing his potency on the road, "And during my career, I’ve always scored a lot of goals away from home.
"Obviously, I want to score more goals at Goodison Park, but away from home I have, maybe, more freedom. I have this bug sometimes to be in the right position and to score goals.
"Brentford are a very hard team to beat, but tonight, we were so much better than them. This shows the quality we have in the team. We need to keep going. This is a big step for us and there is a lot to come but tonight, we are very happy and very proud."
Doucoure came close to doubling Everton's lead in the first half. But just 89 seconds after his volleyed effort crashed against the Brentford crossbar, the home side found an equaliser through Mathias Jensen.
Onwards, Evertonians 👊— Everton (@Everton) September 24, 2023
Nevertheless, Tarkowski's headed goal from Dwight McNeil's corner put the Blues back into the lead, and Doucoure was delighted with Everton's improved threat from dead-ball situations, while adding he believes the Blues' early goal only boosted the belief amongst his team.
"During the week, we worked very hard on set-pieces," he said. "Tonight was the perfect example that when we work hard and everyone respects the job, we are a very big threat, so we’ll keep working on that.
"We scored early in the game and that gave us a lot of confidence, and I think overall, the team performed very well tonight, and I’m very happy for the fans.
"It’s always good to score early. In the last couple of games, we’ve had a lot of chances early in the game, and we know when we score - even just one goal in the first half - it’s very important for the team."